I’ve become a firm devotee of e-books and e-book readers, mostly because I like to read in bed or have options while I’m traveling. Holding a print book while laying down, frequently with a portable light source attached to the book, is awkward. Plus, packing several print books in a computer bag or carry-on gets to be unwieldy and I often end up not having the book that I want when I want it. Finally, I love to look at all the covers of the books in my “virtual library” while traveling and picking out an old favorite to read or a new one that I’ve been waiting to savor.
Does that mean I don’t care about print books anymore? No, not at all. I still purchase copies of all the print books I want to keep in my “real” LGBTQ library because I know that someday they won’t be available any more. Just yesterday, I was shelving an old pulp fiction work that a reader sent me (you know who you are and thank you very much :-)). While in the process I pulled out the first edition copy I have of Claire Morgan’s (aka Patricia Highsmith) The Price of Salt, 1952. I hunted this down on the Internet and it’s clear that this copy has never been read. The cover is pristine and the spine has never been creased. I very gingerly opened the cover (the edges are discolored from age and time and having been stored somewhere in the light). I just looked at the title page and then carefully put it back on the shelf along with perhaps five dozen other pulp fiction works from the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s, some of them in very bad shape. Still every single one is precious to me. So, no, I haven’t forsaken reading (or publishing) print books.
But back to e-books. The other big advantage of e-books is immediate gratification. I’ve always been a quick decision maker. I study the pros and cons of a particular purchase (or course of action, like starting a publishing company or opening the belly of a trauma patient), and if I am able to, I act. This is certainly true for my reading habits. If I want to read something, I don’t want wait. In the days before e-books, I have been known to drive around the county from one Borders or Barnes & Noble after another looking for a book that I just must read right now.
E-books not only save me a little bit of money, they save me a lot of time and gas. Occasionally, however, they also create quite a bit of frustration. Case in point.
Just yesterday I had the must exasperating experience. You’re supposed to be able to get an e-book when you want it, right? So, the huge monster retailer in the sky that shall go unnamed sent out an e-mail notice that an e-book of a particular paranormal author I absolutely love was available. The book was Sin Undone by Larissa Ilone (it’s a demon a series with lots of sexy female and male demons, demon hunters, soldiers—some human, some not) and lots of hot sex. So with great excitement I grabbed my iPad to purchase the book and lo and behold discovered that it wasn’t going to be available for a week. I was greatly disappointed, but I get what marketing is all about and that anticipation sometimes creates more sales. However, I discovered upon further investigation that the print book was actually available a week before the e-book. It was out already!
Now I wasn’t excited, I was pissed off. Why was the e-book release being delayed? Granted, some mainstream publishers delay the release of their e-books (called windowing), hoping to up the sales of their print books, but most have gotten away from that. BSB stopped doing that about a year and a half ago (and we didn’t delay the e-book release initially to push print sales, anyhow, but because we didn’t have the support structures in place to release our e-books simultaneously. We have consequently corrected that with a fabulous digital technician who stays on top of all our e-book needs 24 hours a day. And thank you, you know who you are too :-)
So just how important is E-mmediate gratification in terms of buying habits (to say nothing of reader satisfaction)? I recently heard someone say that when she went to buy an e-book, if it wasn’t available she just bought something else and moved on. Is this what we do in the age of E-mmediate gratification? Do we search out a title only to find that it isn’t available and then buy something else in its place, forgetting about the first title, never to return? Or, if it’s not available at the particular online retail store where we go to purchase it, will we seek it out somewhere else?
Should we as publishers be anticipating this kind of “get it now or forget about it” buying pattern? If it’s not there when a reader wants it, they’ll never come back? Do we need to have our books available “everywhere,” as a publisher recently told me at a meeting, or can we count on our readers to search out the titles that they want and buy them where and when they’re available? These are not idle questions for a publisher. As a reader, I will go just about anywhere to get a book I want when I want it. How about the rest of you? What will you do when you want a book and you want it now? An interested publisher would like to know. Thanks! Radclyffe